Editor’s note: Reporter Mark Boyle takes us behind the scenes of news stories in the area. This week, he catches up with the organizers of the Ironman 70.3 Kansas and gets his hands dirty helping out with the race preparations. This is the second year the race has come to Lawrence, and the event is building a reputation that is attracting some of the world’s elite athletes.
A year’s worth of planning and lessons learned from last year are helping organizers of Lawrence’s second Ironman 70.3 Kansas get the course ready.
Local volunteers play an integral role in course setup under direction of Ironman employees. As the competition approaches, it has become an around-the-clock effort.
“We have been overwhelmed with volunteers this year, which is great,” said race director Ryan Robinson. “I guess when it’s all said and done, you don’t think too much about the work load, but once you put everything up, you have to take everything down.”
Last week, students from local high schools, among other community volunteers, were on hand to assist with setup.
Many athletes and organizers recognize this race as unique. From the location to the length, it’s certainly different from most.
The Ironman 70.3 Kansas is half the distance of a full Ironman triathlon, but the level of dedication and effort behind the scenes is nowhere near cut short.
“It’s an event where we are hosting athletes from all around the world, where they come in and we show them what Lawrence is all about,” Robinson said.
Many of the Ironman employees say volunteers are essential to a successful race.
“They have been doing a wonderful job, really good volunteers. It takes about four days to set up the event and about four hours to take it all down,” said Tom Ziebart, Ironman employee and athlete.
Ironman event employees have funneled in from all over the country to help with preparations. Many of them are also athletes.
For those taking on a dual role, it begs the question: Which is easier, setting up or participating? And this answer might surprise you.
“I race, myself, and working is definitely harder than racing,” said Andre LaPar, who races throughout the country and is helping set up the course here. “It just ends up being a longer day out in the sun, on your feet. The athletes don’t always like to hear that, but it’s a very different day working as opposed to racing.”
I tagged along with crews as they set up transition areas and the finish line, all with the goal of a flawless race and ultimately one that the athletes enjoy running.
“The No. 1 objective on our side is just to have a safe race for everyone,” Robinson said.